Chief of Staff visits Fort Campbell, stresses restoring balance, families
February 6, 2010
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2010) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. visited Fort Campbell Soldiers and facilities Friday.
Casey spent the day meeting with division and installation leadership to discuss deployment preparedness and Fort Campbell family-based programs, touring some of the new facilities on Fort Campbell, and speaking to Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Casey's first stop was a visit to Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, whose 12-month deployment to Afghanistan was announced Feb. 2. While at the Currahee compound, Casey met with junior officers and noncommissioned officers in the dining facility and talked about a proposed deployment tempo expected to be announced within the next three months. Casey told the Soldiers he recognized the stress created by multiple deployments, and talked about the establishment of a Master Resiliency Trainer program he hopes will help mitigate that stress.
"The effects of multiple deployments on Soldiers is cumulative, especially with only 12 months in between," Casey said.
Casey also took questions from the Soldiers, concerning the fielding of equipment in the theater of operations and the ability to properly train troops who arrive at the unit prior to deployment.
While in the Currahee area, Casey was also given a quick brief of 4th Brigades' schedule leading to the recently announced deployment in August.
"It's nice to see that the Army's senior leader will take the time to come to us and ask us what our issues are and how we're doing at our level," said 1st Sgt. Robert Whitely, B Troop, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
Casey did not just ask Soldiers for their issues - he also spent about 90 minutes with a group of 115 spouses at the Fort Campbell Family Readiness Center. During his brief remarks, Casey focused on resiliency and a pending change to the Army rotation cycle.
"In 2007, I said the Army was out of balance," Casey told the spouses. "It was clear to me we weren't a hollow Army or a broken Army, but we were deploying at a rate we could not sustain. Since 2007 we've been working to get back in balance by 2011."
That balance will be regained, Casey said, though the addition of 30,000 additional troops over the past year, and with the continued drawdown of forces in Iraq.
Casey told the spouses the Army is no longer enacting a stop-loss on Soldiers in units on deployment orders and that he is doing what he can to keep Soldiers home longer between deployments.
The Army has conducted studies which show: "It takes between 24-36 months after a one-year deployment to get Soldiers back to 'normal garrison stress levels,' " Casey said. The goal of the Army over the next three years is to get to a 1:2 cycle of deployments where Soldiers deploy for one year, and then spend two years at home station, he said.
"We have to provide more predictability and stability. And we hope to do that in 2011, 2012 and 2013," he added.
The General also spoke in depth about the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, his efforts to add Master Resiliency Trainers to units across the Army, and about building and establishing healthy military families.
"I was an Army brat," Casey said. "All told, I have 61 years as part of an Army family. We have come a long way in that time - believe me. My mother's motto was 'Make the best of it,' and that's the thing that still strikes me. We are asking so much of our families."
Casey encouraged attendees to learn about and teach others about programs and resources available to families, and took questions from attendees.
Many of the questions asked by the spouses in attendance revolved around housing concerns, access to care issues, as well as the availability of mental health care providers for family members. The General doubled the time scheduled to talk to the Families, stressing how important their concerns are to him.
Following the extended question and answer period, Casey toured Fort Campbell's Traumatic Brain Injury Warrior Resiliency and Recovery Center, a state-of-the-art facility which has been touted by other senior defense leaders as a "model" facility.
Blanchfield Army Community Hospital Commander Col. John P. Cook told Casey that part of the hospital's initiative to increase patient satisfaction was to help improve patient access. "The hospital increased their capacity to see primary care patients from 500 to 700 appointments per day over the last year." Other factors Cook mentioned that helped improve patient satisfaction over the past year included focuses on the hospital's customer service initiatives and the outreach to community programs such as family readiness groups, town hall meetings and the patient and family advisory council.
Casey acknowledged that the hospital was moving in the right direction after listening to spouses just prior to meeting with hospital officials. "With a few more efforts with the programs that you put in place now, you will move the hospital to another level." Casey added that if the hospital focuses on the families and make sure they are taken care of, "then (the hospital) will go a long way to improve its image."
Casey's departure from Fort Campbell coincided with the deployment of Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The general took time to speak to nearly 240 Soldiers just before they boarded a flight for their pending 12-month mission in Afghanistan.
"Are you ready to go'" Casey asked the gathered Soldiers, who responded with a rousing "Hooah!"
"You are headed back to the main effort on our war on terrorism," Casey told the Rakkasans. "Nobody knows better than you what this war is all about. You all are part of the best trained, best equipped counterinsurgency force in the world. There is nobody better in the world than the United States Army."
While the Soldiers waited to file back into the nearby holding area, Casey walked among several Soldiers and spoke to them directly.
"It was awesome for a busy man to take the time to come out and talk to us," said Spc. Jerad Bever, a mortarman with the 3rd Brigade heading out on his first deployment. "It gives us a little incentive. He's been there, he knows what he's talking about."